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I've often heard people compare Gotham and Metropolis to New York City in the nighttime and daytime, respectively. However, I've also always felt Gotham was more like Chicago, and I heard that Metropolis is actually based on Cleveland, given that the large, flat harbor in Metropolis is unique to Cleveland. Not to mention Keystone City and Central City being twin cities not unlike St. Paul and Minneapolis -- complete with the subtle classism.

So, do cities in the DC Universe correspond to real world cities? If not, as I suspect there is a New York City in the DC Universe, is there a canonical answer for what real world cities inspired which DC Universe cities?

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    Closely related: Where is Gotham City located? – gnovice Jan 10 '12 at 3:39
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    @gnovice Actually, it was that question which inspired this one! :D – Aarthi Jan 10 '12 at 3:40
  • I added a comment in the Gotham city question that said what I thought were the DC equivelancies. I always thought Gotham City WAS New York. Metropolis was Kansas City, Chicago was Central City and San Francisco was Coast City. – OghmaOsiris Jan 10 '12 at 4:34
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If you refer the map in this answer https://scifi.stackexchange.com/a/5710/1148 you'll see that all of these cities have a place on the map independent of real cities. However, your question reads more wanting to know the original inspiration for the cities.

Metropolis:

Within the DC Universe, Metropolis is portrayed as one of the largest and wealthiest cities on Earth. Since then, Metropolis has become a city inspired by New York City, Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Toronto, Vancouver, and Los Angeles. Most of the notable landmarks in Metropolis are based on real-life landmarks in New York City.

Metropolis appears to take elements from many of the largest cities located in North America. This helps to establish itself as perhaps the grandest city. I imagine this is so readers from large cities can both relate to Metropolis, but still be impressed by its grandeur.

Gotham City:

Before Detective Comics #48, Batman's adventures were said to happen in New York City. Gotham is known to be architecturally modeled after New York City, but with exaggerated elements of the styles and derives its name from a sobriquet for that real world city, first popularized by the author Washington Irving in his satirical work Salmagundi (1807).

As the quote says in 1807 Salmagundi nicknamed New York City "Gotham." As a result there are a number of businesses, media outlets, and artists who use the name in association with New York City.

Central City:

In the 1970s, Central City was stated as being located in Ohio, where the real-world city of Athens, Ohio, would be (as shown in Flash #228 in 1974). Bob Rozakis' Ask the Answer Man column also stated that Central City was located in Ohio.

Since Athens is the largest city in Ohio, At least during that time Central City may have been patterned after it.

  • Nice answer! Are there similar inspirations for Star City et al? – Aarthi Jan 10 '12 at 16:52
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    Star City was supposed to be comparable to either Portland, Oregon or Seattle, Washington @Aarthi (even though both of those cities also exist in the DC universe) – Monty129 May 19 '13 at 10:50
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About the location of those cities:

In DC Comics Presents #87 (from 1985) - marked as a 'special crisis cross-over' - Superman suddenly finds himself on Earth Prime (supposed to be our real world more or less).

In one of the first panels, he thinks: "New York is sprawled out all over where Gotham is supposed to be... Boston suburbs cover Star City [...]".

Superman in DCCP #87

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Gotham is Manhattan Island, as well as Queens and Kings County New York City.

In current continuity New York City has been used by writers negligibly therefore creating contradictions.

Metropolis at one point in time was most likely Chicago.

Bronze age continuity and beyond places Metropolis in Delaware, and Gotham City in New Jersey apart from each other across the Delaware Bay. Considering how completely different in architecture these two places are, it makes no historical sense for these near cities to be so architecturally different.

Jump City is San Francisco.

Nearly all stories state that the speedsters are from the Sunbelt. Central City and Keystone City are not based a bit on the cities you mentioned. Central City and Keystone City as of most canons are the Kansas Cities.

Star City used to be Boston. As of current continuity Star City is Seattle in Washington. It is a combination of Minneapolis and Chicago with intense influences of Orlando in Florida and Gary in Indiana.

However, it is stated that The Green Arrow and The Flash are less than 600 miles apart. Green Arrow is from Minneapolis for most of his writers.

  • (Y) Great that you mentioned something while others missed. Star City- Green Arrow. may be you should try citing the sources. – MycrofD Jun 1 '15 at 6:03
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I always thought that Gotham always seemed to resemble Chicago. A tough, crime filled city joined with corrupt politicians. Because of this i also thought Bludhaven resembled Gary, Indiana, a once prominent city pushed away into the background and once again looking for its footing feeding off of Chicago (this might be a stretch though but it's the way i view it. I also thought of Metropolis to be the grand city of New York as Metropolis is the more prominent city (in comparison to Gotham) similar to how New York has been the more prominent one between it and Chicago. The other major DC cities im having a tougher time putting my finger on.

  • Gotham's relation to Bludhaven would be more comparable to that of New Jersey (Gotham), and Atlantic City(Bludhaven) – Monty129 May 19 '13 at 10:55
  • It's pretty well established that Gotham was originally based on NYC, given that Gotham is a nickname for NYC, which is where Bill Finger got the name from. – Lèse majesté Jun 12 '13 at 11:51
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While I will concede that in its origin Gotham was based on the darker side of new York city, it is my opinion that over time it has become a reflection of Chicago. I believe that this is in part substantiated by the fact that all of the dark knight movies were based off of chicago. Also chicago has its own share of gothic buildings and is much more a reflection of the dark and corrupt place gotham was always supposed to be. The difference of course comes down to what cities in our current time reflect the cities dc uses as the inspiration for their stories today, as opposed to what cities did they reflect when they were created. But chicago has always been more industrial (looking) than NYC and as time has progressed gotham has become more of the industrial big city. If you have ever seen the chicago worlds fair lithograph (1910?) It is even more obvious. Devil in the white city though fiction pulls a lot of historical data of the city at that time and would clearly indicate that it was not the city for Batman at that time. Now however, I believe there is no doubt that if bat man were in Earth Prime he would makeChicago his home.

  • This answer seems to be primarily opinion based with little support from cannon or reliable references. – James Jenkins Jan 24 '14 at 11:19
  • Except that the Dark Knight Rises was filmed partially and inspired by both Pittsburgh and New Jersey as well as Chicago. – Monty129 Jan 24 '14 at 17:31
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The dark knight trilogy was filmed primarily in Chicago. Illinois license plates everywhere. Something easily changed if Chicago wasn't the intended point of reference. This is obviously not necessarily indicative of the gothamcity mythos as a whole. One thing that does pop up across the comic/film barrier is the use of an above ground train system. Something found in chicago(the loop) and not in New York City. The seedy political and gangland atmosphere is also a poignant theme connecting the real world Chicago to Gotham city. It wasn't named the Windy City for the weather after all.

  • I am pretty sure it is called the windy city for the weather. It is very windy in the urban canyons between skyscrapers. Do you speak some dialect where "windy" somehow means seedy or gang-ridden? That'd be new to me. – Nick Matteo Oct 22 '15 at 23:21
  • > “If you had always assumed that Chicago earned its nickname as the Windy City from the chilly gusts coming off Lake Michigan, you would be wrong. The city is windy, according to most local legends, because of the hot air bellowing from politicians." > Dec 22, 2008 – Brian Ashton Jun 6 '17 at 6:09

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